The Power of Authors #SOL16 Day 24

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I am in awe of authors and illustrators.  They create stories that make their readers laugh, cry, relate, think, dream, question, and hope.  I would imagine their business can be lonely at times.  They must need to grow thick skin to face rejection and then feedback from editors in their long journey to getting a book published.  Before social media I thought they were holed away with little to no contact with the outside world.

Over the past three years I have learned that authors and illustrators are, in fact, very connected to the outside world.  I’ve been tickled pink to learn that authors are very close to other authors and truly cheer each other on.  They read each others’ work.  They are fans too! They promote each others’ book birthdays and publicly give shout outs to one another.   It does make sense: you become friends with people who share your interests.  They also connect with their readers.  More than I could have imagined.

Yet there is one more thing I’ve learned about this talented bunch: they are truly thoughtful, caring, kind individuals. I think it must be part of the job description. Yesterday, for instance, I looked in my school mailbox and found a bubble envelope addressed to me. I couldn’t believe what I found when I excitedly ripped open the flap:

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Yes, you’re looking at that correctly: an advanced reader copy of Wish by Barbara O’Connor.   Barbara is beloved at my school.  She has done author visits with us for over a decade.  This year she moved down South and we had to face the fact that all good things must come to an end.  I’ve kept in touch with her through Twitter and Facebook and recently saw a picture of her huge batch of ARCs.  I thought, “Oh, I would love to read her new book but I don’t want to reach out.  That’s so grabby.”  Imagine my surprise when she thought to send me one without my asking!  It completely made my day…probably my week!  How incredibly thoughtful and generous of her to think to do that.

Cynthia Lord pulls at my heart strings at least once a week with a Facebook post.  She really cares about her readers and uses social media to help others.  A few months ago Cynthia posted about a public library in Maine that did not have a large budget for books so she asked friends to help. The library was flooded with donations sent in from kid lit people near and far.  What an amazing way to use her powers for good!

Last night I read Colby Sharp’s post about author/illustrator Bob Shea.  Bob likes to bring up a student from the audience to help him draw when he does a school visit but this is not a random act.  He asks ahead for the name of a student who could use a boost.  On this particular visit he was given the name of a little girl whose family just lost everything in a house fire.  Not only did he bring the little girl up to draw with him, but he tweeted out for help replacing her books, bookshelf, and writing desk.  The outpouring of generosity and love has been overwhelming.  Again, here is an author using his powers for good!

Those are just a few examples of how these extremely talented authors and illustrators use their pull to help brighten others’ lives.  They positively impact so many.  What a humbling, incredible, noble profession.  I am in awe.

 

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Goodreads Love #SOL16 Day 23

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If I were to choose one of my favorite technology inventions I would have to say http://www.goodreads.com.  My husband calls me “Queen of the Tabs” and I ALWAYS have a Goodreads tab open on my computer.  If I’m scrolling through Twitter or Facebook and someone recommends a book, I immediately add it to my Goodreads “To Read” list. When someone posts a list of books coming out this year, I dutifully add each title to my Goodreads “To Read” list.  I have the app on my phone so I can add a title at any given moment.

The beauty of Goodreads is that when a book I’ve saved is published I get an email saying the title is now available.  This means I open a new tab for my public library card catalog and request the book.  It is as simple as that!  It feels as though I have my own private secretary keeping me totally in the know!

As I finish a book I rate it and give it a shelf to make it easier to refer back to.  For instance, I have shelves for board books, wordless picture books, a grief/loss, and Mock Newbery 2017…you get the idea.  When someone asks for a recommendation I can quickly refer back to my shelves.  I also refer back to the shelves when placing orders for the school library.  I try to read as many titles as I can from the public library before purchasing for my library so that I don’t waste any of the book budget.

I also like to see what my friends are reading and adding to their “to read” lists to get recommendations.  It is social media for book nerds like me.  I can follow authors I like.  I even get emails alerting me of giveaways for books that I’ve shelved.  It really is an amazing concept.  Yes, I am in awe of this website and all it has done to streamline my passion and career.

Egg Hunt Surprise #SOL16 Day 22

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My son came home with a paper bag full of plastic Easter eggs today.  It was a particularly exciting day at preschool.  The eighth grade buddies had a surprise Easter egg hunt for their little friends.  Each child got a paper bag and was instructed to hunt for and collect only the eggs with their names.  What a powerful way to reinforce word recognition!

As soon as we entered the house he hoisted himself on to the kitchen chair and started carefully taking the eggs out of the bag.  He opened each one and pulled out the treasure in amazement.  Inside the eggs he discovered tiny seashells, beach glass, a feather, a pom-pom chick, a little plastic beaver, and a bunny sticker.  He was so pleased with his collection.  Imagine the feeling of knowing that all these riches were his and his alone!

Tonight after his shower we got our three books to read.  He brought the pom-pom chick and the beaver with him as he climbed on up into his big boy bed.  He said, “You can read but I’m going to play with these guys too.” Oh, to be so unencumbered with the worries of our world.  To be this grateful for this egg surprise abundance.  It is truly a gift to see the world through his eyes.

Snow Day #SOL16 Day 21

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The no school text came through at 8:37pm last night.  The snow had started to come down very lightly.  We would have to see what the night would bring.  Snow days are now announced before there has even been a bit of accumulation.  They are much more uneventful than when we were younger.  We used to wake up in the morning, look out the window, and listen with excitement and anticipation for our school district to be cancelled on the radio.

This morning we get out of bed later than usual: 6:00am.  The breakfast ritual begins.  “We don’t have school today because of the snow outside,” I say to my son as I point out the window.

“Snow? Yay! I’ll need my snow pants, mama,”  he replies.  “Are we going to do projects together?”

“Yes, we’ll do some projects after we eat breakfast,” I say.  He is at an age where he really likes to do projects of any kind.

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We start with decorating a little bit for Easter.  I bring up our Easter bins and he eagerly looks through. “Easter time! It’s Easter time! Oh!  The Easter bunny can fill these eggs with chocolate!  Does that sound good?”

“That sounds like a very good plan.  Now the Easter bunny will find the eggs up here and he can fill the eggs with treats,” I say.

“Wow, Dad will be so ‘prised!” He is so proud of the work he has done.

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Next we work on Easter gifts for my son’s teachers.  We put each soap in a bunny bag.  He chooses the mini cards and carefully fills out his name inside each one.  I love that he is writing all the letters of his name but just jumbled all over in no order.  It’s so fun to see the progression. He works really hard to sign his name for his teachers – true writing with a purpose.

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We move on to a baking project.  I bring up a brownie mix from the basement and take out a mixing bowl.  He sees the items on the counter and gets very excited.  “What are you making, Mom?  I help you?”

He washes his hands and climbs up on the stool.  I slide the bowl over to him and we look at the back of the box for the directions.  I point to the number 325 and explain that is the temperature we need to put the oven on to bake the brownies.  I point to the ingredients and show him that we have each one on the counter for this project.

He happily pours the water and oil into the bowl while I crack the egg.  He mixes and mixes and says, “I got the egg all over.”

“You did exactly what you need to do.  The egg needs to be mixed up into the rest of the ingredients.  Great job!”

He pours in the brownie mix and together we hold the spatula to mix up the heavy brownie batter.  Finally, we pour the batter into the brownie tray. I show him the numbers on the directions to show him that we will put the brownies in the oven for 45 minutes.

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As I clean up the kitchen I can hear him chattering away in his imaginative world.  I look over and he has built himself a fort with the cushions from the couch.

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I look at the clock and it is only 10:36am. I wish I could bottle his energy. “God bless preschool teachers,” I think to myself.  They stay so busy throughout the day! As soon as the kitchen timer goes off for the brownies, I’ll take them out of the oven and we will take a ride to the public library.

 

First Day of Spring #SOL16 Day 20

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Groceries bought

laundry done

lunches made

lesson plans ready

colorful flowers on display

Easter bunny movie being watched

First day of Spring

Yet

One district already canceled for tomorrow

Latest forecast calls for 6 to 10 inches

Car parked strategically in driveway

for the snow blower to get through

Skies getting gray

We wait to see what tomorrow will bring

 

Pistachio Pudding Cake #SOL16 Day 18

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Sometimes things are not as easy as they appear.  Or perhaps I get myself into situations that could have been easy if I had just slowed down to plan it out. I’ve been looking forward to an annual St. Patrick’s Day/St. Joseph’s Day party that my friends throw.  Life has been very busy so I came across a recipe for Pistachio Pudding Cake and thought, “Now that should not be time intensive.  It’s green.  It looks yummy. That’s what I’ll make.”

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I quickly scanned the ingredients at the beginning of the week and vaguely thought, “I should check the basement.  I’ll bet I have most of these ingredients in the house.”  Fast forward to Friday after dinner at a nearby restaurant and I can remember I need a box of yellow cake mix (already have it), eggs (already have them), and pistachio pudding mix.  I know I need that so I take my four-year old for a quick run through the grocery store before heading home.  We get home and I shower to get the smell of fish and chips off me. I open my computer to scan the ingredients necessary for the cake and realize, “Oh no!  I need club soda!”  We, of course, do not have club soda in the house. At this point it is close to 8pm and my husband does not see why I need to make the cake tonight.

I am going to a half day library conference in the morning and know as I mentally run through my day that I’ll never get this cake done if I wait until tomorrow.  I text my neighbor asking for a cup of club soda.  She texts back, “I don’t have any in the house but my husband just left for Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee.  Do you want me to ask him to stop for you at the grocery store?  He really won’t mind.” I desperately agree to this kind offer. I turn on the oven and take out the ingredients.  My son is bubbling with excitement to make a green cake for the party tomorrow.  My neighbor’s husband rings the bell and hands me two bottles of club soda and refuses to take any money.

We get the cake in the oven and I bring my son in for the bedtime routine of books and bed long after his normal bedtime. I’m yawning my way through the books so when I close his door I go out to the living room and ask my husband to take the cake out of the oven and cover it with a clean kitchen towel for me.  I’m too tired to last the next 20 minutes until the kitchen timer goes off.

As I’m drifting off to sleep my husband comes in to report, “This cake is making me really hungry.  And I took it out of the oven. It looks like it’s from a bakery. Nice job.”

Today I rush out of the house at 8:30am for the conference.  When I leave at noon I go to the grocery store for one more ingredient I refused to ask my neighbor to pick up last night: heavy whipping cream.  Yes, there is still icing to be made.  I knew I could tackle this one today after the conference before leaving for the party.  After we finished lunch my son got up onto the stool at the counter and he poured all the ingredients into the bowl.  I used the electric hand mixer to mix until stiff peaks formed.  My son helped to “paint” the icing on to the cake.  We sprinkled some walnuts on top and put it into the fridge to cool.  My mom will come over in a bit when my son wakes from his nap and we’ll head over with our cake to celebrate the party.

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All’s well that ends well.  However, I could have saved myself a considerable amount of time and frustration if I had just taken the time to look at the ingredients and plan it out for this very (what should have been) easy St. Patrick’s Day cake!

A Special School Visit #SOL16 Day 18

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Yesterday was a historic day at our school. You could actually feel it.  The air was buzzing with excitement and anticipation.  No, we were not celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  In fact, fourth graders were instructed to dress up for St. Patrick’s day on Wednesday.  As I walked down the hallway I saw boys in ties with slicked down hair and girls in dresses and little shiny shoes.  “Don’t you look handsome!  Wow, you look so pretty!” I’d exclaim.  I couldn’t help it.  They all looked so sweet and shiny. The fourth graders smiled proudly.  Everyone was on their best behavior.  Today was a very big day.  Today was Ruby Day.

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The fourth graders study Ruby Bridges as part of our curriculum.  They learn about a time not so long ago when students were not allowed to go to the same school because of the color of their skin.  They are outraged by the very idea of it.  How can that be?  The color of your skin shouldn’t matter!  One teacher feels a special connection because she and Ruby were born months apart.  In the past her class wrote a book for Mrs. Henry, Ruby’s teacher, and mailed it to her home in Boston.  This teacher was over the moon when Mrs. Henry took the time to write a beautiful letter back to her class.  When this fourth grade teacher found out that Ruby Bridges does school visits she made it her mission to get Ruby to our school.

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The fourth grade teachers all agreed to eliminate field trips this year to fund the Ruby visit.  Part of the contract stated that the press could not be alerted.  Ms. Bridges wanted the visit to be for the children only.  If the press were there, she would turn around and leave. We had to be very quiet about our special guest.  It was a stealth operation for sure.  Our cafeteria also serves as the gymnasium and auditorium so the lunch schedule was changed around to accommodate the event.  Students ate lunches in their classrooms.  Recesses were held at entirely different times.  Special folding chairs were shipped over from the middle school.  No one would be sitting on the floor for this presentation.  It was all very dignified.

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As she entered the auditorium it felt like the whole room took in a collective breath and then the children and adults smiled and clapped.  She said later she could feel as she entered the room that she was about to make new friends.  She commented on how welcome everyone made her feel.  I think what struck me the most was that she still has the same sweet little face that she had as that six-year old being led into school by the U.S. Court Marshals.   See for yourself below.

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Ruby Bridges was all we had anticipated and more.  She spoke to the students about how they can make positive changes for the world.  She provided details about what it felt like in 1960 to go to school with Mrs. Henry.  She talked about Mrs. Henry being more than a teacher but also a friend.  They still see each other quite a bit today. She relayed the feeling of longing for friends to play with regardless of what they looked like.  She was dignified and kind and genuinely happy to spend time in a room with our students.

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What an amazing opportunity for our students and teachers.  We came face to face with history.  We met a joyous, brave, ladylike little girl who grew up to be a joyous, brave, ladylike adult who continues to spread the message of hope and kindness to all.

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